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Over-Ear item created by skfktkwjs, Nov 22, 2013
Pros - Sound quality, Beautiful yet premium Build, Isolation
Cons - Weight, Comfort, Price, Needs a good amp to shine although intended for portable use
Hello Beautiful People
Lets get started
Disclaimer : All these are based on my personal opinion with my rig and could differ from others. As always I'm open to suggestions and critics, thank you
I have mostly been a passive headfier but recently I jumped into the game when I first got the HD600s and Marantz HD DAC1. I was very much impressed (still do) with the HD 600s and how well they sounded in the overall FR. Just like the other headfiers here my search didn't end and only the curiousity increased in other highend headphones and how do they perform. So my next step was a HD800. Which was a brilliant step up (very slight step down in mids) in almost everything when compared to HD600s, which led me to sell my HD 600s . And again I wanted to try the Beyers since I have always been using Sennheisers. Unfortunately the Beyers were too airy and had a hot treble which I quite didnt like. Returned them and was only having my HD800s and was quite satisfied except for the treple spike. I came along the Superdupont mod on the HD800s and luckily worked well for me. My curiosity raised again and wanted to try the planar magnetic headphones and was eyeing on the LCD 2. But I read reviews about the LCD XC and how well they sounded and also it was a good idea to get a closed back. Sorry for the long history though
Audeze LCD XC
So, I very recently bought the LCD XC. I will keep the review short on the build and comfort and focus more on the sound quality. Also please note I have never used/tried a tube amp, I always use a single ended 1/4 inch jack and have only one DAC/AMP the HD DAC1. I listen to heavy metal and so some alternative metal/rock mostly lossless and some Spotify premium songs.
Pros : One word, Beautiful. Retro looking, polished wooden earcups, the leather earpads, very minimalistic design, quite huge for my head but I dont plan on using it outside. The carry case is perfect for transport and storage.
Cons : I didnt quite like the headband, it is too thin. I covered it with a headband cushion and now it is fine but still could be better.
Pros : The earcups are very huge and they are soo big and have atleast an inch of depth inside so your ear will never touch the fazor.
Cons : Just like every other reviewer said, it is toooooo heavy. Around 650gms and with the very thin headband the whole headphone weighs on your head and also some parts of your upper ears can actually hurt after maybe just 20 mins. I also find that the bottom part of the ear cups dont close well around the ears at the bottom part. Maybe I will get used to it but not yet.
Sound Quality : Comes the best part, with happy ending
Lows : Probably the best bass I have ever heard in any device that produces music. Very tight, accurate, not boomy, good decay, never overpowering, doesn't indulge into the mids, rolls off exactly at the lower mids which I was always looking for, extends very low, sounds great for all genres, ok thats a lot
Lows compared to HD800 - HD800 has a very good bass too, but never extends as low/deep or powerful as the XCs. Maybe the lows on XCs sound better since they are closed back? or they are planars? Lets say the bass of XCs are 100% then HD800s bass would be 85% as good.
Mids : Amazing mids, full sounding, never thin, has a soul, sounds musical, vocals sound so nice. Overall presentation of the music is so "into" you and a step inside your brain. The mids isn't as great as the HD600s but the perfect balance of the lows and mids make it feel full sounding with a musical note to it.
Mids compared to HD600 - The acoustic guitars sounds amazing and so open on the HD600s. So keep them as the baseline, I would say the HD800s sound 95% good as the HD600s and the LCD XCs sound 98% as good as HD600s.
Treble : Also amazing, I could just write one sentence saying these headphones are *almost* perfect in the overall presentation and FR. The highs are never sharp, don't have any spikes, never harsh but well extended. The cymbals don't sound splashy and maybe this could be a let down for the beyer fans. But don't get me wrong, these have a very well extended, smooth treble.
Treble compared to HD800s - They are not too sparky as the stock HD800s (which I found to be tamed after superdupont mod).
Soundstage : Ya, very *open* for a closed headphone.
Soundstage compared to HD800s - To be honest, I could never picture myself in center of a concert like many others tell you. I just find the sound coming not just from the sides of your ears but around your head, maybe it's the same. It is proven that the HD800s have the best soundstage and spatial imaging, so contest here.
Amping - Ok, so they say it is 20ohms and usable for portable devices. When I first got my headphones I plugged into the HD DAC1 and set the gain to low and was like meh, its alright. Then I read the specifications and it said optimal power requirement 1 to 4 W in Audeze website. So I turned the gain to high, as same as the HD800s and guess what theres a dramatic change in the sound. These cans really need to be amped to get their full potential ( maybe they are even better on a XLR cable?, unforturnately I cant try them now ).
Conclusion : These are the best closed headphones you can buy, Period. The only thing that makes you put down these headphones are the weight and when you have to use the toilet.
Please leave some feedback/questions on my review if you have any or If I have missed something. I would be more than happy to answer/help you all.
Pros - Sound quality, Build quality
Cons - Quite heavy
I have recently switched from using speakers to a headphone only set up thus I was looking to upgrade from my old Denon D2000. I needed a closed headphone so as to minimise sound leakage both in and out, I want to listen to my music without impacting on others. I set up a listening session with Hi Fi Lounge who have an extensive set of headphones on demo. Having spent some time reading various reviews I had the Audeze LCD-XC and Fostex TH-900 on my short list. Paul at Hi Fi Lounge also suggested Ultrasone as well.
I took my Benchmark DAC1 HDR and Mac Book Air along with me as this is what I will be using the headphones with and I wanted to make sure it could drive them OK. After an hour or so of listening I found I kept going back to the LCD-XC over the other headphones including the OPPO PM-1, thrown in to mix things up a bit.
So what made me purchase the LCD-XC over the others I tested? I found them the most life like with the richness of the sound they produce. For example with the Torri Amos track "Yes Anastasia" you can head not only the note but the harmonics of the note, you can tell it's a real piano, a Bosendorfer Grand. With the other headphones it sounded more like a little upright, smaller and thinner sounding. However there is a price to pay for this richness of tone, the LCD-XC can get a little left behind on fast drumming in rock music the Blue Man Group track "I Feel Love" gets a little muddled. For me this trade off is well worth it.
Having owned the LCD-XC for a few weeks now and enjoyed many hours of listening I can confirm they are very comfortable when reclined in your favourite chair. They are on the heavy side and not so suited to listening on the move or working at your desk. So just pour yourself a glass of red, pick your favourite album, sit back, relax and enjoy the music.
Pros - they look awesome, good well balanced sound with no treble or bass roll off
Cons - not the best at this price; Aude'ze charged a 15% restocking fee to return them, and they may be selling returned headphones as new
I have an odd history with these headphones, which I'll explain in detail so no one is misled by my rating. If after reading it, you think the rating is unfair please let me know in a comment.
My first headphones were in the sub $500 range, and I have always wanted to own one "best" headphone so that I could stop wondering if my music could sound better. I went around my city investigating options. In doing so, I listened to the LCD XC at a store where they sounded amazing. Great bass, mids and treble. I was really impressed. However, that store didn't have inventory. After that experience, I wrote an earlier review on head-fi giving these five stars, which people didn’t like because it was based on only five minutes of use (see comments below) and so I took that review down.
I spent the next week debating whether I should buy them. Eventually I saw them new at another retailer and pulled the trigger. I took them home and they were ultimately good, clearly better than anything in the sub-$500 range that I used to listen to.
Now here's the first disclosure. I primarily listen to all of my headphones from my portable MP3 player and my laptop. I used the MP3 player when trying the LCD XCs at the first store and these two items are what I use 99% of the time. I have a large receiver with a 300 ohm high powered headphone jack, but I don't notice enough of a difference in the quality of the music to use that instead of my portable items. Please keep in mind that Audeze's website claims the headphones are easy to drive, they have low impedance, and I confirmed in speaking to their tech support that they were designed to be driven by things like Ipods (although that person also said they will sound a little better if powered by a high-end amp/dac). So if this kills the credibility of my review then stop here and move onto a more helpful review, but I'll go on for others who might be interested in what happened next.
I still had a nagging feeling that there was a better headphone out there. I noticed that Sennheiser had a no questions asked 30 day money back guaranty on the HD800s – and I decided to order them, planning to return them if I didn’t like them. Long story short, after four days with the HD800 and the LDC XC, it became clear that based on my personal tastes, I would never use the XC if the HD800s were available. That's why I deducted 1/2 star from the LCD XC. If a headphone isn't the best in its price range, it can't get five stars. That being said, there is no way I would give this less than 4 1/2 stars on sound, and it is entirely possible that based on your tastes you would prefer this over the HD800. The LCD XC did magic with a few songs and performed excellently on all. It's like a Rolls Royce vs. Bentley thing. Both are excellent but you may have a preference. The fact that the HD800 is open back may also have made this an unfair comparison.
Now let me explain why I took another 1/2 star off. When I realized that I would never use the LCD XC, I went back and forth a bit over what to do, wondering if I could just leave them on the shelf as a decoration, ultimately deciding there was no point to keeping them. I planned to try the retailer, and if that didn't work, then I would sell them on Ebay. I called the retailer and asked if I could please return them, since I had only used them for a few days. He said he would only give me store credit. Then I tried the Audeze corporate headquarters to see if they could take them back. At first their manager said there is nothing she can do because it's the retailer's decision. I asked her why Audeze doesn't have Sennheiser's satisfaction guaranteed policy and she said that Audeze does have such a policy. She said if I had purchased from the Audeze website, then I could return them in 30 days with a 15% restocking fee. I then asked why it should be any different if I buy from an authorized retailer and she kindly agreed. She spoke with the retailer who matched the Audeze company policy. I gladly paid the 15% restocking fee (a total of about $300 due to tax). I'm very happy to pay only $300 to unload these because had I sold them on Ebay there would be a 10-15% Ebay/Paypal fee, I would have to ship them and I would have to deal with a potentially dishonest buyer. So thank you to Audeze for accommodating me.
But that leaves the question of why Audeze charges a 15% restocking fee if you don't like their headphone. On the one hand I can understand how it's designed to deter looky loos who buy stuff, try them out and return them. But then again, if you are operating in the $2,000 to $3,000 headphone space, that should be a cost of doing business. You should not charge this much for a headphone unless you are confident enough in your product that you will let people try them out for free, like Sennheiser does. For that reason, I felt these should lose half a star.
Finally, the reason why I tool another 1/2 star off. Those in the headphone community know that you can easily pick up a open-box Sennheiser HD800 (see Sennheiser's own website or Crutchfield), or Hifiman HE-6 (these are harder to find but you can get them from authorized retailers) for a huge (20-25% or so) discount. These have been fully inspected by the factory and come with a warranty. However, I have never seen such offers with Aude'ze headphones. Which raises the question of what Aude'ze does with all the headphones that are returned to them, and implies that they sell them as new. Now I want to be clear that I could not confirm this inference and so I may be completely wrong, and Aude'ze may not be selling returned headphones as new headphones. If anyone has an answer please post it in the comment. But from what I can see that seems to be the case.
One note about comfort. I'm not at all a super muscular, but my average neck is strong enough to easily support this for hours and hours of listening without any annoyance. They're clearly heavier than the HD800, which feel like a feather, but the extra weight really wasn't an issue with me.
Finally, on those beautiful looks. As you can see in the pictures this is a very attractive headphone. This could be the nicest looking headphone made today. In general, all of Audeze's headphones are these huge wooden monsters that look impressive (and do not underestimate how big this is, this is much bigger than your average over the ear headphones, which are already big). However, you should consider whether that's something you want because it will definitely bring attention to you if you wear these anywhere in public.
I hope this was helpful to readers.
Edit: I just discovered that I need to credit this headphone for its efficiency. I could get this to put out ear thumping bass, screeching (in a good way) treble and solid mids with my cell phone (a Note 2) and my laptop (a Realtek 269 DAC + 2.3 W amplifier). I didn't see much of a benefit by moving to my receiver's powerful jack. That's apparently a major engineering feat in a planar magnetic, that I did not appreciate, so adding 1/2 star.
Pros - beautiful artisan build quality; amazingly open, extended, spacious; balanced across FR and dynamic; pinpoint imaging; tight tight tight extended bass
Cons - somewhat heavy right at top of skull
Disclaimer -- Like many on this site I am super picky, but even more so when it comes to headphones. Unlike audiophile speakers, I find there are very few headphones that I like. Although I have Magico S5 speakers driven by a Constellation Centaur amp (or Air Tight ATM-2 tube amp), there are many speakers I have owned or would be happy owning (e.g., Magnepan). A few years ago I auditioned every flagship headphone in one day at ALO Audio in Portland. Only one had the musical and balanced sound that my ears liked (Beyerdynamic T1) - TO MY EARS...HD800 had incredible soundstage and comfort but sounded too bright and etchy, Denon was extended but too tubby, Grado was wonderfully dynamic but not coherent enough, etc. Across multiple amps and sources, the T1 was what I kept coming back to as fast, dynamic, organized, musical, balanced, etc. So I bought it (adding to my existing HD 650 which I still love but always wish was less veiled), and have been happy ever since, using the Bryston BHA-1, Beyerdynamic A1, and Pathos Aurium with Mullard NOS 6922 tubes. I needed a second pair of headphones for a vacation home/work so was going to buy another pair of T1s but my local audio Guru, Kurt Doslu at Echo Audio told me he fell in love with new Audeze cans and picked them up as a line. His ears and my ears are simpatico, so I was surprised because I listened to the LCD-2s a couple years ago and while they had a lovely midrange, they sounded shut in and dark to me.
I took my T1s to Echo Audio this past week, and while the shop was pretty empty due to a snow storm, I auditioned the LCD-3, LCD-X, and LCD-XC and compared all to my T1s. My T1s were the most comfortable to wear, and had the prettiest, easiest to listen to fully extended musical sound, but the new LCD line brought something new to the game that I ultimately had to have. I was ready to buy any of the three, or simply purchase another T1. My impressions below, which I will update after extended listening. I listened to these primarily through the Pathos Aurium head amp with full gain since this will be the primary amp I use and had just done extended listening through the T1s through it.
- LCD-3: Beautiful wood trim, comfortable on the skull, and like all three wonderfully comfortable and soft ear pads. Very accurate bass. Unlike many cans and speakers, the LCD-3s don't add an artificial bump in the bass or mid-bass. Incredibly spacious and with solid imaging. Really good reverb and decay (but not as good as T1s). As with all Audeze cans, they were more dynamic and meaty than the T1s which surprised me due to architecture differences). Immediately though, I felt like 70 percent of what I was hearing was the midrange. While it was lovely, it was too much midrange for me, which took away some sparkle and balance I was looking for. Just a tad too midrangey for my ears.
- LCD-X: Something elegant about black on black monochromatic look. Most comfortable of the three Audeze cans on the head. More balanced across the spectrum than LCD-3 with more air. Of the three I believed the X cans had the most bass. For me, too much bass, and some of it undefined as when listening to deep bass guitar lines, being able to hear the different notes versus just a lot of low end energy. But, probably of the three, the most fun to listen to when using digital sources and those recordings where you wished there was an equalization option to increase the bottom few octaves.
- LCD-XC: Wow beautiful wood and build quality, but wow big and heavier. I didn't feel a clamping effect but did feel the weight of these on my head. Not a big deal but I can see where some people would punt due to weight. When I put my T1s back on they felt like feathers in comparison. But, the beauty and size observations immediately disappeared when I listened to the music. I was expecting a more shut in constricted sound versus open back but these sounded even more open and equally spacious. More air and high end extension perceived versus the other two Audeze. Better balance through bass-midrange-treble, with the treble extended but smooth and never irritating, and the bass extended but really well defined and textured. The soundstage wasn't as wide as the 3 or the X, but I believe I heard better imaging and a higher soundstage. The sound was one click more inside my head than the other two but still projected really well compared to most every other can I have auditioned. I forgot I was listening to a closed back phone.
I bought the LCD-XC on the spot. The fact it has noise isolation and little leakage is a great bonus.
Pros - Ridiculously plush beautiful sound, incredibly comfortable, superbly built
Cons - Cost but to be honest the design, build, attention to detail and quality, and sound justify it
Received the LCD-XC & X and have first unpacked the XC at work to listen through the WA7 and even with no burn-in there are literally tears from my eyes listening to pretty much anything. Overwhelmingly beautiful sound and supreme comfort with the most impressive build quality I have ever seen. Care in packaging and attention to detail is unmatched. No question this dislodges my T5p in terms of sound. Little heavy but not unbearable and to be honest for this sound I don't even care. My neck will get stronger. Imagine it can only even get better after some burn-in, but it doesn't need it for sure. This is undoubtedly endgame for me.
Can't wait to open the LCD-X and have a listen at home...
-- Home --
Well I just couldn't wait to get home to break open the LCD-X and so I pulled them out as well at work. A very well matched sonic signature to the XC just with a more open sound stage and airier presentation as anticipated. I am quite frankly in love with both headphones and the weight so far has not presented any issue, infact they are the most comfortable headphones I have ever felt.
Spent the evening burning in the XC and comparing them to both the T5p and T1. The T5p may stay in the stable for a more practical and portable on the go rig but the T1 will most surely be up for sale soon along with a number of other headphones that these are pushing out of the airplane.
-- Disclaimer --
To everyone imagining this is a review, it isn't. It is just documentation of my impressions as I go... Don't go out buying these based on anything I did or didn't say. I will not be held responsible for your enjoyment of them once you realize none of it was true and all of it was true at once.
-- Months Later --
My early impressions haven't changed. These are the best headphones bar none. This is now a review.
Pros - Rich, balanced sound. Tight, accurate bass. Very detailed. Top shelf materials and construction. Excellent isolation.
Cons - Heavy. Not overly comfortable for long sessions. Some slight mid-range coloration.
These are NOT the greatest closed cans in the world. Yes, you can indeed get better closed headphones, let me explain that process.
First, you need to settle in for a while, get used to doing lots of ebay searches, it's probably best if you just make up a pair of alerts; the first is for "Sony MDR-R10 bass light" (not the bass heavy version, they're a little too weighted on the low end to be neutral, though the "bass heavy" examples are more fun), and the second is "STAX 4070 earspeakers". Then you wait. Also, there's a slim chance you might find either of these in our exceptional Head-Fi "For Sale" forum, but good luck with that, when they do show up for a reasonable price they're gone faster than you can say Jiminy Cricket.
Yeah, these may look really cool, but unless you're a masochist (with deep pockets) you should probably avoid them. You've been warned.
Second, you're going to need to open your wallet wide... very wide. Actually, just take out a loan, because for the Sonys you're going to need to lay-out, near as makes no difference, $7,000-8,000, depending on condition. Also, you'll need a capable amp, so that'll be another $1000-2000, because although they're not too difficult to drive, you won't be doing it effectively with your iPhone, and you'll want something with a very clean output. The case is similar with the STAX 4070s, they're also scarce, but generally cost less when you can find them, $2000-3000. However, you'll need to shell out some serious money for a special electrostatic amplifier, because they won't plug in to a standard 1/4" HP jack. On that front you'll pay significantly more, between $2000-5000.
Third, pray they never break, because both of these rare bits of audiophile unobtanium are out of production, in fact Sony stopped making the R10s >20 years ago. So that means finding parts for either isn't easy, or cheap. Warning! Anecdote incoming. A few days after I received my Sony MDR-R10s, which I found on ebay from a seller in Croatia (no joke), I noticed a slight imperfection on the left earpad, it looked like a minor discoloration due to dirt. So, being a picky so-and-so, I tried to clean it with a microfiber cloth and some water, dabbing at it very gently. Well, long story short, old leather earpads are really fragile and I made it worse. Also, since direct replacement pads for those seemingly don't exist anymore, I'm just going to leave it alone and be thankful that I didn't ruin it, lesson learned.
Does that all seem to be too much? Well, if you're like 99.99% of humans, yes, that's way too much effort and money to invest in such a thing. In fact, the only people who are crazy enough to go after the R10s and 4070s are collectors... like me. So where do you go from there if you need closed, reference-quality cans? While there are several options that sound good, there are some rather severe trade-offs, usually in; midrange coloration, clarity, bass extension, harsh treble, etc., the list goes on, take your pick. Tuning closed headphones is hard, much more challenging than open headphones, and during the process, sacrifices are made. As an active member of the modding community, I've been there and done that, it's a lot like one of those little plastic games where you try and get as many BBs as possible into a bunch of small holes, without being able to touch them. It can get a little maddening.
At this point, in steps Audeze... and... okay, full stop.
Here's the deal, I have to say I'm not one of their biggest fans, and that's not because they're a bad company. On the contrary, they're a very fine company, the problem is I simply don't care for their previous generations of headphones, namely the LCD-2 and LCD-3. Based on my experience, they're tuned more for bassheads, and I'm not one, so the several times I've demoed them they've left me wanting. I find that their sound signature is too dark and lacking "sparkle" in the treble region. I'm not going to go into more detail on this because it's a polarizing subject, however I'll just say we all have specific tastes and their previous offerings simply weren't to my liking, enough said. So without further ado, here we go. Keep your arms and other body parts in the vehicle at all times and please remain seated while we're in motion.
They're pretty, that's for sure. The first time I opened the case I went, "Oooooooo..."
Audio Quality: 4.75 / 5
Superb. There's no shortage of micro-detail available here, and combined with their very low impedance (22 Ohms) and relatively high sensitivity (96dB), it's available to practically everything with a headphone jack. They do scale with better electronics, but the difference isn't profound, think of it like adding extra whipped cream on top of a sundae. So while the sound out of my EC Balancing Act amplifier bordered on sublime, directly out of my LG G Pad it was still very good as well. Bass is fast and punchy with an abundance of extension, low and clean, offering a wonderful tactile sense and presence. Treble is equally enjoyable, with just the right amount of sparkle in the highs to keep you engaged, but still velvety smooth in its delivery. The mids are even and clear, but there's a slight amount of coloration in the 1.5kHz region that's noticeable in comparison with top-end open "neutral" sets, adding some warmth there, but it isn't obvious on their own. That's a small price to pay for their outstanding isolation, however, and in that area they excel, especially compared to semi-closed cans like the Fostex TH900s. Another aspect where they shine is instrument placement, sound focus is exceptionally sharp, and that combined with its fine detail retrieval make for an excellent tool in high-end mastering. All in all, what minor trade-offs that exist do not detract from their overall sonic presentation, Audeze has done a wonderful job tuning the LCD-XC. Soundstage is quite good for closed cans too, though not as expansive as the best open headphones, and even falling a tad short of the aforementioned TH900s. Bottomline: the main strength of the LCD-XC, its "party trick" if you will, is its world class sound quality, despite its sealed design, and that's a very difficult feat to pull off. Good Job, designers.
Value: 4.5 / 5
These are the best new sealed headphones available, and while I feel there are better values in the broader category, if you require (or just want) the best, look no further.
Design: 4.25 / 5
They're a traditional planar design, and people familiar with that will identify it immediately, despite the closed configuration. The materials are of high quality, though I do wish there was no plastic at all in their construction. One potential avenue to lower weight could possibly be carbon fiber, keeping the same structural rigidity of the frame components while lessening the weight substantially. Because, yes, they're heavy. Not to the point where you think your neck is going to break, but I was feeling a little fatigue after listening to them for a couple hours. In terms of sheer looks, the wooden cups are quite attractive, however the finish on them wasn't perfect, I could feel slight imperfections in it. I was able to fix the problem with the supplied oil and buffing cloth, but it shouldn't have been an issue to begin with. The headband and earpads are a nice calf skin, pleasing in appearance and to the touch. You also get a cool Pelican style carrying case that looks like it could survive a grenade explosion, 2 sets of high-quality interchangeable cables (one balanced and one single-ended), and some papers filled with warranty and product info. All in all, they look and feel like a luxury product, and with the small QC issues taken care of (and they've assured me they already are), they do a great job representing what you should expect from a flagship headphone.
Comfort: 4 / 5
Initially the weight concerned me, but after wearing them a while I adapted to them and they were fine. However, after an even longer period of time my neck began to get fatigued. One thing I want to add, however, is that I have moderate rheumatoid arthritis which does affect my neck, so I'm probably more sensitive to that than most, so it might not be an issue for you. Also my ears started to get hot under the pads by that time too, so you may want to consider Audeze's "vegan" earpads if you believe that could affect you as well.
There's not much left to say, if you require true reference quality sound with fantastic isolation, and want something new (you do, trust me), there's no better headphone available. The relatively scant negative comments I've made are me nit-picking, because I do that with everything. I've never encountered a perfect headphone, the STAX SR-009s are as close to that as I've heard and I gave them a 4.8 (see how hard it is to get a 5?). The Audeze LCD-XC however, is an excellent product that I heartily recommend, it's closer to perfection than any other closed cans being made today, and I'm giving them a very respectable 4.5 out of 5 stars. So, what are you waiting for? Choose your color and dive in, you won't be disappointed.
Pros - Very natural and transparent closed headphone...a brilliant product from Audeze
Cons - Heaviest headphone yet and pricey.
When I first put the LCD-XC’s on my head I thought to myself: “Wow, finally I no longer have to sacrifice sound quality or a natural/neutral presentation when listening to closed headphones.”
The first group of closed headphones that I’ve previously owned were ones that isolated well enough but really made you constantly feel that you were giving up a bit too much in the sound quality department. Some were not very expensive like the beyerdynamics DT770/600s; while some very expensive like the Ultrasone Ed. 8LE.
The second group of closed headphones actually sounded pretty darn good to amazing, but offered a very coloured presentation. I would put the D7000, W3000ANV and TH-900s in this group. While I still own the TH-900s and really enjoy the heck out of them, I was left wanting something more natural/neutral (and with better isolation too). That’s where I feel the LCD-XC headphones come in and fit that bill to a “T".
First off, let me say that these headphones are real beauties. Simply gorgeous looking headphones. As you can see in the photo below, the Bubinga wood finish really helps set them off. Everything you’ve come to expect from Audeze in terms of solid and professional constructions have been continued with these headphones and they’ve continued to push the envelope in that regard.
They utilize the same new fazor technology with the LCD-X open headphones. With both of these headphones I've found that the imaging has been improved upon with excellent instrumental separation and location in the sound stage.
You can find my LCD-X Review here:
Are they heavy? Well yes they are... they come in at 650 grams (only 50g more than the LCD-X and 100g more than the LCD-3s). But once on my head, I really forget about the weight as it’s very well distributed across my head and hardly a factor that I would consider. Overall I would say that the comfort levels are satisfactory with my noggin’. I would however like to see Audeze move toward looking into lightening the weight of future headphones if possible (and not affect the sound quality) as some may find them a bit too heavy. I know...I want it all. Isolation wise, they are a good step up from the W3000ANV/TH-900s and D7000s. A very good feature for a pair of closed headphones.
I put these headphones through their paces with some of my favourite test tracks like my HDCD series of Patrica Barber, Diana Krall, some of high rez Chesky downloads (both binaural and stereo), Miles Davis Bitches Brew Remaster, Miles Davis Kind of Blue Legacy Edition, Tool, Pink Floyd, Rush and some various HDCD classical albums that I have on hand.
As I prefaced earlier, I would classify these as among the most natural sounding closed headphones I’ve heard. And yes, they have definitely retained that magical Audeze sound that has really continued to impress me over the years. So if you’re a fan of the LCD-2/3/X, then you should be quite happy with these headphones. If you’re looking for a more “fun” and coloured headphone with lots of bass and sparkling treble and a slight “U” FR response, then I’d suggest you look elsewhere. But if you want a reference level pair of headphones, I can think of none better than the LCD-XC.
The bass is what you’d expect from Audeze: deep, textured, very well defined, and very clean sounding. While I find these the bassiest of the Audeze headphones, they certainly do not give you bass-head thumping bass, but still oh so satisfying. When listening to Tool’s Lateralus I can feel the bass energy and the detail and texturing is simply outstanding. Just flat response bass down to 20Hz (though a bit more bass than either the LCD-3/X.
The mids are equally outstanding. While these headphones do have a bit more bass, I never felt that it impinged on the mids; while this certainly did occur on the D7000s and to a lesser extent on the TH-900s. Again, the mids are very much what we've come to expect from Audeze...pure, clean and very well detailed. The slight difference however is that I've found the upper mids a bit more forward than either the LCD-3/X especially when listening to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, I could hear the higher extreme notes a little more forward than either the LCD-3/X. While never etched like it can sometimes sound on the HE-6s or HD800s, it was indeed less as laid back as the other Audeze headphones.
The treble extends very well. On my frequency sweeps I was able to take these headphones to the extremity of my hearing ability 18kHz (ish) and while the treble remains "pushed back", it did offer the most forward treble of any of the Audeze headphones. Triangles have a brilliant shimmer, cymbals really come to life while never overbearing with my test music.
Imaging was closer (from memory) to the LCD-2s than the more open sounding LCD-3 or LCD-X. But that's to be expected as these are closed headphones. To compare them to other closed headphones that I've owned through the years, I would say that the fazor technology on the LCD-XC has actually equipped them with very good imaging. The TH-900s offer a more expansive soundscape to my ears, but the LCD-XCs offer pinpoint locations of the individual players/instruments. They do image better than the Ed.8 or D7000s to my ears and most best equated to the wonderful W3000ANVs in this regard (but with a good improvement on the location of each instrument and player within that sound stage for the Audeze headphones).
I feel that Audeze has brought to market a wonderful pair of closed headphones that no longer has me having to sacrifice either sound quality or a natural sound for a more coloured one. They isolate pretty well (and leak very little), yes, they're heavy and pencil neck geeks be warned, but seriously on my head, they feel very close to the LCD-X (which I find quite good for long listening sessions). While these are among the least coloured closed headphones I've heard, you can colour me impressed. Yet another winner by Audeze. A striking feat considering that they released both the LCD-X and LCD-XC at the same time.
Pros - Great sound, musically engaging, higher efficiency, stunning resolution, sounds open at times, sonically addictive
Cons - Sorry, don't really have anything to complain about. They could be lighter and smaller! Or can they?
The Audeze LCD-XC has, again, redefined what's possible for me in a headphone, in terms of sonic integrity and musical engagement. In this case I'm talking about music playback through closed cans. My favorite way to experience music via headphones is through open-back designs. They've always been more immediately able to transcend my thoughts about a band on my head and drivers hugging my ears when trying to lose myself in the music. Perhaps I never considered the notion of using closed headphones for anything more than DJing or gettin' on the road because that's what they always were to me: Utilitarian. But Mr. Speakers Mad Dogs changed all that for me, then the Alpha Dogs, and now the LCD-XC from Audeze.
The experiences I've had (and am having as I type these words) with this headphone obligates me to say forget about the senseless "subjectivists" vs. objectivists" debate for a few moments if you can. Ultimately, we're all reacting to music playback. Nobody can argue over whether music is an art form right? Well, we're chasing the music and the sound we love through technology that's also an art form! So all of this is in the ear of the beholder. It doesn't phase me if somebody dismisses this as poetic musings and hyperbole. God, I'm so sick of seeing that word tossed around insulting people trying to express themselves. But it's products like this that help me forget about bit-rates and sample-rates, async and Direct Stream Digital. Sure, I'm pretty certain Audeze's engineering leap with their Fazor technology is responsible for much of the magic I hear in the XC. I've been living with their LCD-3 as my top reference (next to my HD800's) headphone since its release, so I have little doubt that Audeze's technological advancements have rendered a new reference for me. The music through the cans transcends the numbers for me. Now you can do with that what you will, but as much as I love to geek out, I really don't care how I achieve happiness when it comes to hearing my music the way I love it through my cans! That said: I believe it's important to shine the light on two techy aspects of these new closed headphones from Audeze that helped seal the deal for me. Firstly, their increased sound-staging capabilities. The one thing I've always longed for in my LCD-3's was that out-of-you-head soundstage projection of my Sennheiser HD800's. That incredible sense of being surrounded when the sound-field exists far beyond my head. The experience can be akin to listening to loudspeakers in a room. That presence is captivating to hear, and it feels more natural, as that feels closer to experiencing live performances
The LCD-X and XC, thanks to Audeze's newly developed Fazor technology, throws a much deeper and wider soundstage. While listening to atmospheric album's like The-Drum's Contact, Brian Eno's LUX, Radiohead's Kid A and Shlohmo's Bad Vibes the sound is enveloping and open with window-like transparency and holographic imaging. I get so transfixed when I play some of my favorite ambient records through my best tube rigs (ALO Studio Six & E.A.R HP4) and the XC's, it's just like listening to my two-channel in-room system when I close my eyes! I can't wait to hear these on the Cavalli Liquid Gold tube amp! The other new techy change in the XC's is their efficiency. This is pure joy for me. I was always impressed with how well the lil' HRT microStreamer could drive my LCD-3's - but there wasn't much headroom. And as my good friend and fellow Audio360.org scribe @warrenpchi says: "Mercer likes headroom." "That's just how he rolls." Sorry if that sounded like I was talking in the third-person there for a second - but I do like headroom! Less possibility for noise if you don't have to push your amplifier so hard. Now, when I rock the XC's on the microStreamer I barely have to push the amp and the sonic pairing is glorious. I've also enjoyed listening to lots of acoustic recordings with the XC's, specifically singer/songwriter stuff. I love the spaciousness in a bare bones singer/songwriter recording. One of my favorite artists who sits in that genre is Ani DiFranco. I've seen her a few times, and she's never disappointed live. Her albums usually sound great too, as she's into Hi-fi. So I'm sure her reference system kicks serious a__ . I don't know what it is now - but she used to rock Maggies. "Hearse", off her 2012 back-to-folky-roots masterpiece Which Side Are You On? has become one of our songs: My wifey Alexandra and I. It's a powerful and beautiful love song. It encapsulates our love for each other perfectly, with lyrics like "I will always be your lover, even after our atoms have dispersed" and a gorgeous and poetic chorus "and I will follow you into the next life, like a dog chasing after a hearse" - simple, and poignant. When Alex and I play that on our in-room system we just get all choked up and sappy. Well, the same thing happens when I listen to it through a solid source and the LCD-XC's, which is something I probably shouldn't admit here - but I'm listening to XC's as I type this, and the music gets my blood pumpin' when I experience it through em. I feel charged. I get the same feeling when listening to experimental electronic music, which is probably what I listen to most these days. Though my playback is always varied, I've definitely been leaning towards that sound lately. The XC's bring dynamics galore when I'm rockin' Alix Perez's Chroma Chords, Burial's newly released Rival Dealer EP (man it's great) and his first two albums. James Blake's "Limit to Your Love" on the limited 45rpm 9" is lush, airy and delivers wicked sub-bass. That deep warbly Roland TB-303 bassline drips out with abandon, and the XC's handle it with grace and precision.
The better efficiency of the XC's enticed me to try the headphones on a number of amps and DAPs, from the battery-powered ALO International, Pan Am, and Island, to the also battery-powered (AC-powered in my case for this eval) CEntrance HiFi-M8, Audioquest Dragonfly (if you're gonna spend your whole budget on these cans - that lil' beauty can be had for $99 right now), Audioengine D3, MYTEK Stereo-192 DSD DAC/headphone amp, and my Oppo BDP-105. My sources ranged from my iPhone 4S to my Astell & Kern AK120, MacBook Pro/Amarra, and various DAP/DAC/Amp configurations, like my iPod Classic & CEntrance HiFi-M8, Astell & Kern AK100 & ALO International, ALO Island, and iPod Touch & Sony PHA-1: My favorite combo with the XC's, next to the iPod Classic & CEntrance HiFi-M8. So I put them through alot of rigs. After all, being labeled a "Audeze Jihadist" by a commenter on another audio site, I had to be sure I really loved em this much to preach the Audeze gospel (and if you believe that I gotta bridge to sell ya). As I stated in my Writers Choice Awards for Positive Feedback - where I gave the LCD-X and XC awards this year: Since when did brand loyalty in an audio writer become a bad thing? When Audeze builds a product I don't like I'll let ya know. In the meantime, I'm having a blast listening to these cans, and when all the BS has faded away, and you're alone with your music and your gear, isn't that what this all boils down to? I've taken trips with these already, and when I sat down to listen in my hotel room it was as if I brought a high end stereo system with me, but I didn't disturb anybody! Admittedly, that's something I never envisioned caring about years ago when it came to my Hi-fi, but life calls for those situations these days! The XC, especially when accompanied by a capable source, defies every assumption I made about the sonic capabilities and claustrophobic aspect of closed-back headphones. They sound wide open, are dynamically engaging, and damn addictive. Wait a minute, you sure these are closed?
Lookin' for the edge of the audio arts in closed-back headphones?
Check out the Audeze LCD-XC.
I've travelled with my LCD-XCs now, a few trips, and they're continuing to open up! These also continue to sound frighteningly open-backed some times too. As the soundstage expands with real-life break-in/usage, these cans have evolved into quicker, sharper (as in micro and macro detail retrieval capabilities) conduits to my music collection: both vinyl and digital. They have become one of my top five all-time reference cans - for recreational listening, and even studio-monitoring (w/ the LCD-X).
The captivating sound of the LCD-XC continues to grow in scale, in depth, and in emotional transference (their ability to draw me in, and make me forget about the gear) as I journey through more records!!
I just wanted to share some pictures of the various rigs I've used w/ the LCD-XC since I wrote this review. It's been on my mind since I have another Audeze Sonic Satori column coming up. These headphones continue to astonish me - and yes, I don't care if that's sounds too heavy.
The LCD-XC, like no other closed-back planar-magnetic cans I've experienced, manage to (especially after proper break-in, which, admittedly, followed this review) almost disappear. By that I mean I sometimes forget I'm listening to a closed headphone (and more often than not these days)! Their ability to reproduce a palpable sense of air and space around the instruments/triggered sounds in the music just floors me! Sure - I also believe their low-end has more overall gestalt and punch because they are in fact closed - but it doesn't take away from their sonic accomplishments.
I end up listening to my XCs more than any other Audeze - simply because I work up in the front of the house sometimes (where I have a couple systems set up at a desk) because of my wifeys illness - so I can be close to her if she needs something, AND I don't disturb her! It's been a spectacular sonic journey with the LCD-XCs!
And - for the record - I've found that, IMO, Double Helix Cables - from Comp2 to Comp4 - have the most magnificent synergy with the Audezes!!!!
The Nordost Heimdall 2 comes in behind them...
Believe me, I've tried LOTS of cables.
So, check out some of the recent rigs I've been using w/ the LCD-XCs:
and my friends boy - 8-year old Dominic said, after this:
"Uncle Mike, can I have these?" "Now my Beats are goin' to sound like garbage!"
Pros - Extremely well extend and Tight bass. Full, Rich, Juicy Mid range. Crystal clear and well extended High. Amazingly accurate Imaging and Wide stage
Cons - Weight.
Overall Packing is better. Now they comes with 2 cables. One is 1/4' plug and the other is large XLR plug.
Audeze also gives you 1/4" to Mini plug converter just like Grado.
This is my first impression of LCD-XC
Extremely well extend and Tight bass. Bass is even deeper than LCD-2 rev.2 that I have. Well controlled and really have tightness.
I would say this headphone delvers the best quality of bass.
Full, Rich, Juicy Mid-range. One of the main differences between XC and any other LCD series is Mid-range.
I would say it is lightly forward where I felt X, 2, 3 was neutral but yet laid back around 3kHz.
However, XC delivers Mid-range amazingly accurate. It is very detailed and juicy!!
Crystal clear and well extended High. One of my main problems with LCD-2 was extension on high.
It was somewhat restrained. Now with XC high are Crystal clear and you can hear a fantastic extension without getting rough.
It is truly amazing how audeze delivers high frequency range with XC
Amazingly accurate Imaging and Wide stage. The other problem with LCD-2 was small Staging. Although imaging was accurate, sound stage was very
compressed. Yet XC has extremely wide stage. I would say a little bit smaller than Sennhieser HD800 but still bigger than most of open back headphone.
Imaging is even more acutate then LCD-2. Now when I listen to audio track, I can feel where the instrumentals are located
Even though LCD-XC has so many good modifications on sound, they have critical problem. It is extremely heavy..
It is 100g heavier than LCD-2 Rev.2 So it is total of 650g...
After wearing them for hour, I had to take it off and rest for few mins in order to maintain listening.